Author and Historian

inside Jazz book cover
Inside Jazz, originally titled Inside be-bop

Leonard Feather was an influential author, historian, and teacher. In his controversial 1949 book Inside Bebop (later retitled Inside Jazz) Feather promoted the new form of jazz characterized by fast tempos and based on a harmonic structure. The music was seen as something of an underground movement at the time, and the book told the story of the evolution of the movement. It contained numerous biographies of relevant musicians and provided a technical analysis of the music. Eventually accepted by traditionalist critics, Inside Bebop helped to establish the new form of jazz as well as the careers of Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. He is perhaps best known as the author of the 1956 book, The Encyclopedia of Jazz. It has been called a cornerstone of jazz historiography. The book not only was a who's who of jazz music, containing information collected via questionnaires from musicians all over the world, but also presented readers a thorough, multidimensional analysis of the genre. Updates and reprints of the work would be published for the next four decades. The last, The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, was co-authored with Ira Gitler and released posthumously.

Leonard Feather also organized classes and lectured extensively about jazz and jazz history in a higher education setting. In collaboration with Robert Goffin, he organized the first classes devoted to the history and analysis of jazz. The classes were offered at The New School for Social Research in New York beginning February 4, 1942. In later decades he had scheduled visits to lecture at schools including North Texas State University, Berklee College in Boston, and many others. After his relocation to California, Feather spent time lecturing at many of the University of California campuses.

Partial bibliography

Bibliography from The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, pp. 747.